Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: Games 80-82, Playoff Preview Pens-Ning

Games: vs. NJ (W 4-2), @ NYI (W 4-3 SO), @ ATL (W 5-2)

Notable Highlights:

-6 of 6 possible points. Team finished with 106 points and in 4th place in the Conference. Tampa Bay is the 1st round playoff opponent. This recap will be light. Regular season is over, it doesn't matter now. There is only one goal (shown above).

-There were three 20 goal scorers: Sid (32), Chris Kunitz (23), Tyler Kennedy (21).

-The Penguins PK finished 1st in the league at 86.1%

-The PK also generated some offense, scoring 13 shorties. Pascal Dupuis lead the way with 4.

-As a team, the Penguins gave up 2.39 goals per game, finishing 7th in the League.

-Seems to be some support in the national media behind Coach Dan Bylsma winning the Jack Adams Trophy for coach of the year. After a garbage start, the Pens turned it around and never let the wheels fall off when everything continued to give them excuses to quit. The whole coaching staff deserves credit for that.

-To win against the 'Ning, the Pens must:

-Activate the forwards: Get the puck in deep. Punish the Lighnting defenseman to cause turnovers or hesitance.Without the puck, get 2 in on the forecheck and force their guys to move the puck efficiently.

-Follow Coach Bylsma's philosophy: Coach believes that each series is going to 7 games. You can lose 3 times. In fact, you can play like complete trash 3 times if you win 4 games.

-Sidney who?: Don't get caught up in the distractions of whether Sid is going to play, what the plan is with him, what type of cereal he likes, etc. As Coach says, "it's not about who's not here, it's about who is in this room."

-Convert on the Power Play. This could be the difference.

-Capitalize on mistakes: The Lightning have less experience. Make them think instead of play.

-Watch Martin St. Louis At All Times: A lot of focus will be on other players, but St. Louis fits the mold of a "Penguin killer". He's slippery and knows how to score talented and garbage goals.

Ghastly Lowlights:

-Despite missing the team's last 41 games, Sidney Crosby was the leading scorer with 66 points. From what I've heard, hat is the lowest team-leading point total since Dick Tarnstrom. I refuse to verify that for the sake of my sanity. Sid also lead the team with 10 Power Play Goals. SMH.

-Pens Power Play was 25th, with a 15.8% conversion rate.

-To win against the Pens, the Lighnting must:

-Be disciplined: Stay in their assigned spots in the 1-3-1 system. The Penguins believe in taking the attack to the other team. They are going to do that. Being overly aggressive won't help matters. Be where you're supposed to be.

-Keep it simple in the defensive zone: As mentioned, the Pens will look to be in the offensive zone a lot. When you get control of the puck, don't be fancy. Looking for the rush could put you in a bad situation. Make the simple pass or play off the wall to make sure the puck clears the zone.

-Avoid Turnovers: Turning the puck over can lead to extra chances in the defensive end or odd man rushes coming back. Execution with the puck is crucial against a team as aggressive as the Penguins.

-Bring Spucoli Back: Steven Stamkos only had 4 goals down the stretch. To move forward (and avoid extreme criticism) he will need to get back on the score sheet. He is a very talented player.

-Avoid Stirring Things Up: Take a page from the Detroit Red Wings. Don't go out of your way for scrums. The Penguins team is mid-level in terms of forward skill, but aggressive. Frustrate them by skating away after whistles early and often and you may find yourself on a few Power Plays.

-Be Cautious on the PP, Hack The Pens: The Pens had the #1 PK Unit and scored 13 shorthanded goals. Special teams can really swing a series. Until the Penguins prove otherwise, don't be afraid to take penalties when a good scoring chance presents itself. If they can't convert, it isn't penalizing you.

-Remember That This Is A 7 Game Series: The last year the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, they lost to Detroit in Game 5 in an ugly game (5-0). All hope appeared to be lost as it seemed history was going to repeat itself with the Red Wings up 3 games to 2 and possibly lifting the Cup after Game 6 on Civic Arena ice. Co-owner Mario Lemieux, who has known the agony of defeat and the glory of winning, proved once again why he is a legend in a text to GM Ray Shero:

"We are a family and in this together. We don't need anyone that is only with us WIN or TIE. I really think this is our year. Let's forget about tonight ... It happens. We will win Tuesday and win the Cup Friday."

I won't rehash it the rest of it, go here for the article. The point is, the 'Ning can't be discouraged, even if things seems bleak. A series doesn't end until one team wins 4 games. If they believe in themselves, anything can happen.

Forward Recaps:

-Maxime Talbot was the only forward to play in all 82 games.

-Mark Letestu finished with 14 goals.

-Mike Comrie scored the last goal of the regular season in to an empty net. He's worked hard to get back in to the lineup mix after his hip surgery and it was good to see the guys set him up and embrace him like that.

-Craig Adams lead the forwards with 64 blocked shots.

Defenseman Recaps:

-Ben Lovejoy had 3 assists against Atlanta, a career high.

-Kris Letang lead the team with 42 assists. He was also the only defenseman to play in all 82 games.

-The Pens theory on D is blocking shots. Zbynek Michalek 149, Paul Martin 129, Kris Letang 109, Brooks Orpik 94

Goalie Recaps:

-Marc-Andre Fleury appeared in 65 games, was 36-20-5, had a 2.32 GAA, .920 Save % and 3 shutouts.

-Brent Johnson appeared in 23 games, was 13-5-3, had a 2.17 GAA, .920 Save % and 1 shutout.

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